Cocteau amused himself by constructing an epigram equating cinema and death. I Am a Camera suits no-one like Tavernier’s Roddy with his eyes surgically replaced by video monitors.
The forthrightness of Tavernier’s style is bedrock to the overtones he sets up, from Nothing Sacred (or It Happened One Night) to L’Immortelle (or Rosemary’s Baby), and that’s only mentioning the films obliquely evoked in the midst of a stern, tragic tale.
He opens with a very effective metaphor. The camera rises out of a Baroque graveyard to see the modern city on the outskirts.
The dosshouse scene seems to skirt the edge of Hitchcock’s Frenzy. Harvey Keitel blind on hands and knees directly reflects Gene Hackman in Bonnie and Clyde.
The Deathwatch TV crew flies in at the last aboard two helicopters, one of which is painted with the letters “G-BUZZ” on it.
The camerawork is exemplary, and especially the handheld camera is put to ingenious use developing the action.
“I don’t like downtown,” says a cop, “I don’t like the cultural center, the power elite and the messengers they send.”
The American television version appears to elide the joke almost entirely, and why would the American television version want to do that?